A friend of mine worked for KBR, one of those evil military contractors who send ex-military men to shitty places like Iraq and Afghanistan, doing things the U.S. military is too busy to do, like build barracks, mess halls, depots, garages, runways. Infrastructure like electric distribution systems and water desalination plants.

They travel between cities in convoys, just like the military do, except they don't travel in militarized HMMWVs. They travel in uparmored Toyotas with flatbed-mounted fifty-cal guns.

Uparmored. That's what they're calling it nowadays. They let you survive some IEDs. Not all, but some. The smaller ones. In case you're lucky and there's a C4 shortage among the local bombmakers from Syria or Iran.

Toyota sells uparmored vehicles factory-direct to KBR and Halliburton. Heavy duty suspension for the extra weight of the reinforced armor. Bulletproof glass so thick you can only see straight out the window, since looking out at an angle warps the view too much. Extra big engine, extra heavy duty transmission, expensive tires that let you run on rims if they get shot.

Everyone wears PPEs. Everyone's got firearms. If you're over there, you know how to shoot, even if you're not a soldier, because no one wants to die over there, bleeding on the side of the road cursing this shitty little pointless war.

You hitch a ride in military helicopters if they've got space. The last thing you want to do, if you're in Baghdad and you have to travel sixty miles south, is take the roads. Roads mean convoys and convoys mean security, and that's when you start taking antacid tablets.

I'm no apologist for the war. Me, I think George W. Bush fucked the military by putting them in harm's way, committing them to fighting a dirty little war they have no way of winning. Bush can't even define what 'winning' is.

But my friends are over there. Good men. Men I played football with and had cigars with. Men I admire.

Men who don't smile much any more. Men who have trouble talking to civilians like their old childhood friends because they've seen things that don't make sense. Senseless killings. Parts of bodies lying by the side of the road. Random mortar attacks. Bureaucracy that doesn't make sense, that appeases senators back home but doesn't help them do their jobs. It's like hammering nails with watermelons.

So let them drive around in uparmored Toyotas with fifty cal guns that spit lead and make noise like the sound of vengeful angels shrieking, that shoot into the dark at anything that moves. Paranoia is just good clear thinking when you're in a country where everyone wants you dead.

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